Thursday, 23 August 2012


Old man's beard ties knots in hedges and the still green edges of woods. Still green but in the leaves of willows now are autumn's yellows and rowan berries are already red.

Under a pastel-smudged grey sky, and in a cobwebbed world, I wait for noctules and for Jerry. The noctules never come but Jerry does. He is Kelling Heath's bat expert and he's kind enough to let me join his bat walks to continue learning. Most of what I know about bats I've gleaned from him.

He leads his group through the woods and past ponds. Common pipistrelles put on a fine show, soprano pipistrelles too, a noctule is heard on a bat detector as it passes above in the dark, but the clear star of the show is Jerry's enthusiasm for these extraordinary creatures. Little known by most, less understood, reviled, and silently wiped out by our Blitzkrieg management of most of the landscape, bats have a tough time of it. But they have friends in Jerry and others like him who night after summer night share with people the lives of these remarkable animals.

I was reminded of words I read many years ago in Bolivia:

Quoting Merlin Tuttle:
We recognize that we need bees: They produce honey, they pollinate our crops. We're careful to leave bees alone, that's all. It should be like that with bats. We don't get excited about the fact that more people die of food poisoning at church picnics annually than have died in all history from contact with bats. Now, here we have a chance of dying so remote compared to all these other things, and we're terrified of bats. Thousands of us die annually at the hands of our own spouses! Yet I don't know anybody who is afraid of getting married for fear they'll get killed by their spouse. What I'm saying is, unless you're living in abject horror of all these other threats to your life, it really makes no sense at all to be afraid of bats.

Diane Ackerman
The Moon by Whale Light

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